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Theater Communities Across the Nation

Should aspiring actors head to New York, Los Angeles…or somewhere else?

It seems like an eternal struggle, an epic tale of two cities (haha), both battling for the title: which is better? New York or Los Angeles? As a life-long Angelino, I think you know where my loyalty lies. But when it comes to comparing the two as far as the quality of their acting communities, the lines begin to blur. After all, New York is where Broadway was born and has spawned so many classic shows and multi-talented performers, yet Los Angeles has a world of opportunities for anyone wanting to be a hit on the big screen and an ever-expanding world for live theater.

It seems the stereotype that if you want to do theater, you should go to NYC, and if you want to be a movie star, LA is the place for you, might be true. But how much of that is just hearsay, and where do students of theater want to end up when their four short years come to an end?

1) New York (go figure, right?)
Maria Hanley, currently a student at the NYU, loves the atmosphere of theater in New York. “In my opinion, living in New York poses an enormous difference to how things are in LA. I feel like in LA, the presence of theater is almost neglected. Theater actors don’t seem to be nearly as respected as they are in New York. Here, you tell someone you do theater and everyone wants to be your best friend. I think in New York there is a sense of respect for [an actor’s] craft.”

Mike Luca, a graduating USC senior, also has set his sights on NYC. “I will be bringing my aspirations to the Big Apple post-graduation. Los Angeles has undoubtedly done its business to prepare me for the future, but Los Angeles is indeed a business. Conversely, the same thrill packed in a cramped rush for the subway carries over into the vivacity of living the dream in New York, and I am looking forward to being home and seeing which direction my creativity yanks me towards once I’m there.”

2) Los Angeles
LA is good for more than just movie stars and models; there is a flowering theater community here in Southern California, with venues like the Ahmanson, Pantages, and the Hollywood Bowl. In fact, I was personally more impressed by a touring production of Spring Awakening at the Ahmanson than I was by the revival of West Side Story in New York City!

Another great thing about theater in Los Angeles is the sheer overwhelming amount of it – and it’s everywhere! Living in LA, you are constantly bombarded by fliers, posters, and facebook events for school productions, community shows, professional theater, and children’s musicals. There are so many different types and levels of theater all packed into this city, even with Hollywood looming on the horizon threatening to eclipse it all!

Taylor Allen, who graduated last year from USC, has been experiencing life in LA as a young actor for almost a year now. “8 months post grad has taught me one thing; you have to be seen. You have to be in things. Even if it’s free theater. There is more good theater in LA than most people think, and if you do it (even if your main goal is to attract an agent or eventually move to a larger theater city), it will help you reach both of those goals.”

Of course, by no means are New York and Los Angeles the only two options an aspiring actor has! All over the US there are thriving theater communities with plenty of professional opportunities for actors. For example, Chicago is a flourishing mecca for theater and musical theater alike. Not only is it a highly frequented destination for Broadway tours, its Oriental Theater, Broadway Playhouse, and Cadillac Palace Theatre are home to award-winning regional theater groups. Similarly, San Francisco is home to the American Conservatory Theater, a famous professional San Francisco theater company and actor training program.

Maddy Heyman, currently a sophomore theater student, believes that Minneapolis is an underrated city for theater. “I have to make a case for Minneapolis! While there isn’t something equivalent to Broadway really, the Guthrie Theater is a huge, very famous theater that puts on incredible productions. While it might not be the city to go to to become a huge star, for someone looking to realistically work as an actor, Minneapolis is a really great place to do this!”

Basically, there are a ton of options out there for an aspiring actor! One shouldn’t feel pressured to choose east coast or west coast – opportunities abound on either and everywhere in between as well!